This post is a part of #JaatiNahiAdhikaar, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz with National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights & Safai Karamchari Andolan, to demand implementation of scholarships in higher education for SC/ST students, and to end the practice of manual scavenging. Click here to find out more.
This post is a part of JaatiNahiAdhikaar, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz with National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights & Safai Karamchari Andolan, to demand implementation of scholarships in higher education for SC/ST students, and to end the practice of manual scavenging. Click here to find out more.
I want to tell you all a few stories which are about my family members. I do not want to take names because naam mei kya rakha hai?! (what’s in a name?)
The first story is about a person who is very close to me and is one of my family members. The said person is an Adivasi; she is a PhD holder and a very senior professor in Chhattisgarh, Dr Seema.
She had gone to a fortnight-long training program that hosted professors from different places. Dr Seema was allotted a room with a Savarna Professor, Dr Lata.
Dr Seema was very excited to be a part of the training program and was obviously expecting good vibes and positivity because all of them were prestigious people and were stalwarts in their respective fields.
But, little did she know that on the very first day, her roommate (Dr Lata) would display her casteist side in a very prominent way. She said, “Mere saamanon ko mat chhuna”, “Mere bistar mei mat baithna”, “Mere study table mei mat baithna” etc. (Don’t touch my luggage, don’t sit on my bed or study table)
During the classes, that lady used to carry her water bottle everywhere and would never leave it for the fear that others might drink her water. She used to do these things to Bahujans only.
One day, Dr Seema was very thirsty and it was around 11 o’clock at night. So, she asked for some water from her roommate because the water cooler was on another corridor which was quite far. It shocked me when I heard that her roommate refused to give her water.
Dr Seema has arthritis and it gets very hard for her to move her hands. So, she asked her roommate to fix a safety pin on the pallu of her saree. The so-called “renowned professor” said to Dr Seema, “Chi Chi Chi door rehna” (yuck, you please stay away from me) and after that, she reluctantly did it, making faces all the while.
When all the professors used to go to field visits, Dr Lata either used to sit alone or only with other Savarna professors. Once, when she couldn’t get a single seat and others offered her a seat with a Bahujan, she outright refused to sit there.
Can you believe that this happened to Bahujan professors and by a professor herself? I can’t even imagine the plight of Bahujans students who study in the same college where she teaches. If this is not systemic discrimination, then I don’t know what else is. Discrimination in educational institutions is a real thing.
Think about those who are poor and illiterate. Despite being educated and privileged, Dr Seema couldn’t take any action against her. Let that sink in.
One of my family members, Dr Sunita (an Adivasi) had gone to see a medical professional (a Savarna). He had gone somewhere for a few minutes, so she was waiting outside his clinic. His wife opened the door and noticed the car, branded stuff, jewellery etc. and she happily asked Dr Sunita to come inside. Not only that, she even introduced her as a friend to her son. A few minutes later, she casually asked, “Aap kaun se caste se hain?” (What caste do you belong to?)
Dr. Sunita said, “Hum Tribal hain” (I am a tribal). Listening to this, her expression changed and she started talking tediously. A few minutes later, with a pale face, she said, “Aap yahin wait kijiye who aa jayenge thodi der mei” (You please wait here, the doctor will come in a bit) and with this, she shut the door and went inside.
Despite everything, people have the audacity to say that casteism doesn’t exist.
One of our family members (an Adivasi) had a Savarna cook. They were talking casually and the cook said, “Arre, humari nadi ke paas zameen hai par hum wahan nahi rahenge kyuki bagal mei ek Adivasi ki zameen hai” (We have a piece of land next to the river but we won’t live there because the adjacent land is that of an Adivasi person).
One of my family members, Rashi, had two Savarna cleaning staff at her office who were husband and wife. They had voluntarily applied for this job. When Rashi asked them to clean the toilet, which is a part of their duty, they refused to do it! There can be only two possible reasons –
I don’t know what amongst the two was the reason but both of them are very casteist.
We can clearly see that economic status has nothing to do with caste discrimination. Whether rich or poor, educated or illiterate, people from the SC/ST communities face discrimination in one way or the other. Till now, the majority of privileged SC/ST children don’t reveal their identity in their class because of casteism. Till now, so many members in our family, who are Class-I officers, don’t reveal their identity in the workplace.
Why is that? Does this happen without any reason? This happens because of the caste discrimination that has been prevalent since time immemorial. People often say that casteism is a thing of past. Those are the same people who ask surnames before making friends or getting married. Those are the same people who still casually use words like – Bhangi, Chamar etc. So, can you see the hypocrisy here?
It is not a coincidence that there are no Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe faculty members in 12 out of 20 Indian Institute of Management (IIMs) in India. In IITs, as per data available, up until January 2019, SC/ST people account for less than 3% of all faculty members. It is not a coincidence that out of 82 Secretaries to the Government of India, only 4 are from Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe communities.
It is not a coincidence that the representation of SC/ST people in higher judiciary is almost negligible.
All these statistics are the result of systemic discrimination that has been happening both by formal and informal institutions. The stories that I told above are just a few drops in the ocean. I am sure there are more stories and even worse instances. People need to speak up and bring these stories to the limelight.
Of the 86 toppers, only one belonged to the Other Backward Class (OBC) category. None was Dalit or tribal. Of the 76 toppers who responded to this newspaper’s questionnaire, just five were first-generation college-goers.https://t.co/lmP3iAKQ9i
— The Indian Express (@IndianExpress) December 27, 2020
**Names have been changed to protect identities